BBC is forced to admit Fiona Bruce WAS wrong to correct Diane Abbott

BBC is forced to admit Fiona Bruce WAS wrong to correct Diane Abbott during heated Question Time row – but regulator finds no evidence or racism or sexism

  • The incident occurred during a Question Time broadcast in January this year
  • Miss Bruce backed another panellist, who said Labour was ‘miles behind’ in polls 
  • Miss Abbott insisted that her party and the Tories were ‘level-pegging’ 

The BBC has admitted that Fiona Bruce was wrong to correct Labour frontbencher Diane Abbott in a polling figures row.

The incident – which occurred during a Question Time broadcast in January – sparked a vicious off-screen dispute in which the Shadow Home Secretary claimed that Miss Bruce was turning the programme into the Jeremy Kyle Show.

The bruising episode began after Miss Bruce wrongly backed another panellist, who said Labour was ‘miles behind’ in the polls. 

The incident – which occurred during a Question Time broadcast in January – sparked a vicious off-screen dispute in which the Shadow Home Secretary claimed that Miss Bruce was turning the programme into the Jeremy Kyle Show

Miss Abbott insisted that her party and the Tories were ‘level-pegging’, but host Miss Bruce said: ‘You’re behind Diane… definitely.’ 

The two parties had been neck-and-neck in polls, with Labour ahead in some surveys while another had showed the Tories with a lead of five points.

Miss Bruce had tried to draw a line under the row the week after the broadcast, telling viewers that she ‘should have made the context clear’ and was happy to do so.

Yesterday, the BBC’s complaints unit ordered the Corporation to issue a correction, which said: ‘Miss Abbott was right to describe the overall situation as “kind of level pegging”, and we should not have described Labour as “definitely” behind on the basis of a single poll.’

The BBC’s Editorial Director of News, Kamal Ahmed, also ‘discussed’ the matter with the Question Time team, the editorial complaints unit said.

The Editorial Complaints Unit issued its ruling as it partially upheld 22 complaints about Miss Abbott’s treatment before and during the programme, including 15 about the polling data.

It said in a statement: ‘The effect of Ms Bruce’s intervention went beyond generating confusion between different sets of polling data, suggesting that, contrary to what Ms Abbott had said, the overall data then current showed a definite Conservative lead.’

Miss Abbott insisted that her party and the Tories were ‘level-pegging’, but host Miss Bruce said: ‘You’re behind Diane… definitely.’

The BBC’s attempts to clarify the matter afterwards ‘did not entirely rectify the impression’, it added. 

The BBC also addressed the matter on its corrections page, but only to say that Miss Bruce had a specific poll in mind and that Miss Abbott was ‘also right’.

At the same time, the row was taken up by far-Left activists, who launched an online campaign against Miss Bruce branding her a ‘bigot’.

Miss Abbott also accused the programme of whipping up a sexist and racist atmosphere against her, before and during the show.

‘It was clear that a hostile atmosphere was whipped up, propped up by reports of inappropriate and sexist commentary in the audience warm-up session,’ her spokesman said at the time.

Audience members who attended the filming claimed that the warm-up for the show made references to the fact that Miss Abbott once had a romantic relationship with Jeremy Corbyn.

Audience members who attended the filming claimed that the warm-up for the show made references to the fact that Miss Abbott once had a romantic relationship with Jeremy Corbyn (file photo)

However, the BBC denied any claims of racism – and yesterday the Editorial Complaints Unit also rejected the allegations.

‘The ECU found no grounds for the suggestion that the presenter, Fiona Bruce, had referred to Ms Abbott during the preliminaries to the recording in terms which were discriminatory or likely to prejudice the studio audience against her, and nothing to support the view that Ms Bruce’s conduct of the discussion was less than even-handed,’ it said.

Yesterday, the BBC added: ‘Fiona is proving to be a fantastic Question Time host who’s been warmly received by audiences and commentators alike and the programme has seen audiences increase since she has been presenting.

‘We took a number of steps to clarify these remarks once we had reviewed the episode, with an on-air clarification from Fiona the following week and a statement posted on social media and the BBC website.’

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